Small Business Trends in Ecommerce and Customer Service in 2021
Date : Jun 22, 2021
Author : Isaac Addo
At the beginning of 2020, business pundits predicted a big year for UK’s small and medium-sized businesses. This projection was despite the political and economic uncertainty.
In fact, one of the biggest predictions was that small businesses would thrive in the new year. Some even thought 2020 would be the best year on record for new businesses in the UK. From AI to sustainability, several business trends were making the rounds.
Fast forward to March 2020, the country entered complete lockdown as uncertainty loomed ahead.
The novel coronavirus pandemic forced as many as 67% of small businesses out of operation.
Simply Business reports that:
- Small businesses expect to lose £11,779 on average. This includes earnings, lost orders, and total revenue. The lost revenue amounts to be £69 billion for about 5.8 million small businesses in the country.
- An estimated 230,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have shut down permanently.
- A third of entrepreneurs (about 35%) have borrowed money from friends and family.
- One in 10 (about 8%) of business owners took private bank loans to stay afloat.
But there is good news. 85% of these small business owners intend to remain self-employed while 10% are already planning a new business. Also, 42% of business owners say that they rely more on technology now to run their business. 25% of entrepreneurs and their staff learnt a new skill during the lockdown.
By the looks of it, 2021 is going to be a challenging year but also a year of opportunity.
Small business trends – What to expect?
Rapidly changing technology is putting additional pressure on businesses to fulfil consumer demands. Whether it’s the power of pivoting or remote working challenges, adaption is the key here. All this has sparked a series of business trends that will have a lasting impact on (Small and medium-sized enterprises) SMEs.
Tradeshows, events, and seminars are getting a facelift. The digital marketing spend is seeing a jump. Small businesses are also embracing developing technologies like augmented and virtual realities. With this, businesses can respond better to the challenges they might be facing.
In this article, I’ve highlighted key areas where SMBs can expect disruption and the changing trends in business. I will discuss the emerging trends in Ecommerce and customer service.
What to expect within the eCommerce sector
Analysts have noted that eCommerce now accounts for over a quarter of all retail sales in the UK. This number will increase steadily and reach one-third of all sales by 2024. So, SMEs must be ready to embrace the eCommerce model if they want their business to thrive.
Changing Trends in Business: Expected ecommerce trends for 2021
Expansion of eCommerce
There will be about 2.14 billion global digital buyers by 2021 – that’s nearly 27% of the world’s entire population shopping online! Online shopping has become the daily norm for millions of UK customers. Your small business can jump on this wagon and seek ways to cash in on this trend.
Even if you don’t sell tangible products, the eCommerce model will still work for you. You can replace your in-store offerings with:
- Helpful information,
- Affiliate marketing opportunities, or
- Anything else that’s of relevance to your target audience.
When lockdown forced businesses to shut down their physical stores, even consumers who had never shopped online had to go digital. 2020 was a bumper year for eCommerce. Businesses that did not have eCommerce provisions ended up becoming e-Businesses.
Common Thread Collective shows consumer behaviour and patterns over eCommerce platforms below. You can decide how to approach your target audience after studying this.
Success story: Sainsbury’s doubled their online capacity during the pandemic. By the end of October, Sainsbury had delivered 700,000 online grocery orders. It covered both Click & Collect and home deliveries. This was a new milestone for the second-largest supermarket in the UK. A surge in orders continued as the lockdown persisted in the UK. By year-end, the supermarket chain doubled its online capacity.
Waitrose added an additional 130,000 delivery slots with Deliveroo. The company expanded its on-demand grocery trial and added 150 new products to its range. Waitrose Rapid is a two-hour home delivery service complemented by Deliveroo. It now has over 37,000 customers. This is a four-fold increase in its buyer base as compared to the pre-COVID market. In addition, waitrose.com – which provides online access to the complete shopping range – now offers about 190,000 weekly slots. Before the pandemic, it had 60,000 slots.
Online and offline buying options
Historically, there was no overlap between shopping in-person and online purchases. Both these activities involved separate interactions and customer experiences. But with everything online, hybrid shopping models will become prominent.
Some common examples of this mode of buying and selling are:
- Restaurants making deliveries through Deliveroo and UberEATS, or
- Customers placing an order on Asda and picking up the delivery from the curb-side.
There is absolutely no reason why small businesses cannot partake in this trend. Even when regular shopping was the norm, people found it convenient to shop online. This is why Amazon became popular in the first place.
Success story: Gilchesters’ organic flour mill is located in Stamfordham. It used to sell about 80% of its flour to restaurants, bakeries, and wholesale customers. However, in the first month of the lockdown, the mail orders direct to customers shot up by 700%. This revenue stream was almost negligible before the pandemic.
Billie Wilkinson, 53, runs the business with her husband, Andrew, 55. She remarks, “Our business model completely changed. People still wanted sacks of flour but everything changed completely.” So much so, that they had to restrict access on their website to cope with the unprecedented surge for flour. In fact, Andrew says that their company has “never milled more flour than we have now.”
Innovation in business models
Businesses should prioritise innovation today to unlock their post-crisis growth. Any crisis presents a choice – an opportunity to grow or stagnate. Every entrepreneur should reflect on what they’re offering and the way their business model operates.
McKinsey & Company’s surveyed over 200 organisations across a spectrum of industries. The survey found that nearly 90 % of executives expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change their way of doing business. Three-fourth of respondents also feel that the crisis will pave way for opportunities.
Businesses that thrived during the COVID-19 crisis were the ones that adapted quickly. Business owners have always had to consider the changing trends in business and what they mean for their companies. But this mindset will be critical for survival in 2021.
Stay Golden is a trendy eats and coffee restaurant in Nashville, USA. When the pandemic forced restaurants to shut down, Stay Golden quickly pivoted its business to sell:
- Dinner and brunch items as put-it-yourself boxes for customers
- Mixed cocktails to go
The restaurant also offered sponsored meal kits for those struggling to buy food, with donations from its subscribers. To keep their followers up to date with these changes, Stay Golden’s team sent out emails on a daily basis. The outcome was that they were able to sit out the initial lockdown and reopen their restaurant when the restrictions eased.
Increasing the variety of offerings
One way to continue sales is to penetrate new markets. While eCommerce is one way to go about it, brick-and-mortar stores can also try doing this. For example, a bakery could introduce beverages. Home maintenance companies could upsell customers on combination services. Salon owners could offer daycare to kids who accompany their parents. It’s not difficult to expand the offerings. Innovation and thinking out of the box are two core skills required to excel in this area.
Businesses can make an informed decision to:
- Adapt their core functionality to meet the shifting needs of consumers,
- Study and quickly address new opportunity areas,
- Revaluate innovation initiatives and allocate resources accordingly, and
- Construct the foundation for post-pandemic growth to stay competition-relevant in the recovery period.
UK-based Chai Guys would have lost everything in the pandemic. They couldn’t receive financial help and their revenue stream dried up. The founders were about to open a fourth outlet in Convent Garden. Instead, they had to close up shop completely. But within 5 days of shutting shop, they started selling spice blends and tea online. They did so well, that just weeks later, they secured a Salesforce small business grant. After this, they got an entry on Deliveroo. Now, Chai Guys have three revenue streams and two new products, not to mention a steady source of income.
On the customer service front
A Forbes survey shows that in the post-pandemic world, as many as 59% of consumers will pay even more heed to customer experience than before. So, what does this mean for small businesses?
It means that there’s little room for mistakes. Any friction in the shopping journey of your customer will mean lost revenue and the potential gain for your competitors. Try incorporating these business trends to make your venture more customer-friendly.
Changing trends in business: Expected customer service trends for 2021
Customer service will be a priority for businesses
This may seem surprising, but the quality of products is no longer the frontrunner for businesses. SuperOffice asked 1,920 businesses to share their topmost priority for the next 5 years. Their answer was quite simple.
Businesses want to offer the best customer service (CX).
Image credits: SuperOffice
Multichannel servicing will increase
Customers like to interact with their favourite companies on multiple channels. Some of these include forms on the website, social media, and live chat. However, the communication has to be consistent across all these platforms. In fact, it should be seamless, both online and offline. The gold standard here is IKEA.
The furniture conglomerate invests heavily in customer experience. No matter which IKEA store you visit around the world, you will get the same experience. Customers laud the company for its efforts; not just by making IKEA one of the most beloved companies in the world, but also taking their annual revenues to over $40 billion worldwide.
Not saying that you should compete with IKEA. But there are certainly lessons to be learnt from its raving success.
Customers EXPECT a seamless mobile experience
Did you know that 57% of customers won’t buy from poorly designed websites on mobile? Even if they like your business, 50% of customers will stop visiting if they can’t make head or tail of your website. A mobile responsive website is not a “nice to have” anymore. It’s a must-have. Small businesses should take their mobile responsiveness seriously. They have more to lose.
How many of these practices is your business following? How many of these business trends will you incorporate? Share with me in the comments below.